Tag Archives: personal evaluation

Mistakes: A Different Perspective

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I make mistakes…all the time.

I forgot my wallet once (ok, more than once). I left it at a busy, locally popular restaurant and made it all the way home before I realized it was missing. In a panic, I sped to retrieve it knowing, just knowing, someone probably took it and was at that very moment making frivolous purchases…like jet packs or collectible trinkets on eBay, or both. I pulled up, jumped out and ran inside, but before I could muster a syllable I was approached by one of the staff, who held out my wallet.

“I thought you might be back soon. A man brought this to the counter, said it had been left in the booth.”

I stood dumbstruck for what felt like a solid minute, blinking and looking around. I thanked her, took my wallet, and headed back to my car, shaking my head the whole way, staring at it as if it was a unicorn. Once inside my vehicle I feverishly checked through it because I just couldn’t believe someone would actually do the right thing. I grimaced in shame. First, because of my unforgivable stupidity (leaving my wallet, really??), second because I’d thought the worst of my fellow man for no reason.

Let’s stop right there…

It was one mistake, not the end of the world. A mistake.

That being said, if you’re like me, Dear Reader, you find it especially difficult to forgive your faults and mistakes. For some odd reason we’re less likely to allow ourselves the same latitude we allow others. We set impossible standards and when we inevitably fall short, we find it impossible to forgive ourselves. We hold on to a mistake, playing it over and over in our minds, questioning every detail and our role in it. We perform this tidy little exercise again and again, even though if someone else made the same mistake we would tell them ‘not to worry’, ‘it’s no big deal’, ‘you’re doing great’…and we would meant it. But our own mistakes, it seems, are uniquely unforgivable.

Mistakes trigger complex emotions in us. They can be internalized differently depending on delivery and elicit various responses, such as fear, disappointment, and anger. If someone confronts us with a mistake we usually respond defensively, whether we acknowledge the truth of the mistake or not, feeling as though it is a personal criticism of our character. If we personally recognize our own mistake we’re not off the hook because we tend to replace defensiveness with our own brand of harsh self-criticism. The trouble is, we tend to be ‘mistake collectors‘. We curate them as a single, large-scale exhibition of our lives, viewing them collectively as the narrative of our life, which then takes on all the charm of an enormous, matted ball of yarn that is impossible to untangle. Fortunately Dear Reader, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Perfection is a MYTH.

We are incapable of perfection. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to do our best, but we need to acknowledge perfection is a myth and we are quite adept at making small, medium, and even epic mistakes, and that’s okay because mistakes are necessary. A mistake is nothing more than a catalyst.

Consider the situation I described at the start (forgetting my wallet). My mistake was personally recognized. However, it forced me to return to the restaurant which carried some potential for criticism, either privately or openly, from others (staff or customers), and this elicited fear and defensiveness, which in turn enhanced the myth of my mistake’s enormity. Contrary to the myth, several incredible things were catalyzed by my ‘mistake’. First, it induced a response from another human being, allowing him the opportunity to decisively exercise agency, positively or negatively. (Thankfully, he chose to respond positively by turning in my wallet.) His response then held the potential to impact others. (Again, thankfully, his choice of response radiated positivity and kindness to the staff.) Likewise, his response renewed a sense of confidence and optimism in me toward my fellow man. The mistake I made also prompted me to make positive behavioral changes. In particular, I exercised greater vigilance and awareness, and suffered less fear that others would choose to exploit my mistakes if given a chance.

I made a mistake, sure. But this perspective demonstrates that mistakes, big and small, have the power to yield a myriad of positive results.

Mistakes are necessary catalysts. Take them with a grain of salt, own them, but don’t collect and curate them. Don’t relive them, but celebrate their contributions. Move on. Respect the counsel of those who love and care and have confidence that honesty, from ourselves and others, is always the best policy. We are fallible but there’s really nothing to fear but fear itself. We are better for our mistakes, and as long as we don’t try to hide them or lie them away, we will use them in ways that make our lives better and make us better people.

Take heart, Dear Reader and be kind to, and forgiving of, yourself and your mistakes. Life’s full of ’em, so rock on…

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Saying Goodbye.

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In Latin, the term pretiosis means ‘of great value’.

The sun peaks above the mountain, a glowing orb pregnant with possibility, and I am reminded that this day, like every day, is pretiosis. I watch birds play in the cottonwoods and bees flitting among flowering bushes, and I understand what they do not. They are transients of nature. I am too because I live. The mountains I have climbed, rivers fished, down to the smallest bits of earth underfoot change with each passing day and bear witness to the inevitable. All living things exit this realm just as new arrivals make song with the dawn.

We shun thoughts of life’s finiteness. It is true (whether you believe in an afterlife or not) that life as it is known here is temporary. We’re not comfortable contemplating what that means in terms of the day-to-day grind. We go on with our get-and-give, get-and-give…letting the worries, boredoms, tasks and responsibilities dominate the day so that once a peaceful moment finally arrives, we want to numbly take it in as a reward for all our race running. We live for the weekend…for that vacation…for some future promise. But we’re not promised tomorrow, and we don’t want to acknowledge that we know, deep down, the race has an end. We know it nonetheless, and it causes a deep sense of urgency to matter.

It is the need to matter that drives negative perceptions of death. We tend to wander in a fog of false invincibility until we are surprised by it. Death holds up a mirror and says, “No, no, not true, my dear. See? Nothing stays the same”. All the mundane redundancies of life become bitter pills to swallow. Death has the power to confront us with wasted time and regrets. We are afraid of forgetting, or worse, being forgotten. We rail against its truth because we are self-important. We don’t want to fade into obscurity, but we recognize obscurity is promised with the passage of time.

Death can make life seem so small and insignificant.

But tears shed for death tell a different story. They stand in violent opposition to the notion that life is small and insignificant. There is merit in slowing down to seriously contemplate the finite nature of life. Doing so nurtures in us a greater appreciation for life in general and intensifies the introspective moments of it. Never underestimate the power of touch, a kind word or smile to reorganize the world. It matters, being present in the millions of tiny moments life grants us. This is what death does; it slows us down and illuminates what matters most. In our fear we fail to apprehend the transformative beauty of what death accomplishes. If anything death is a teacher, revealing with great clarity the insignificance of the material, and the weighty significance of time and love.

When we are forced to say goodbye something remarkable happens. The colors of life’s tapestry defy the boundaries of the known world to grow richer and more vibrant than ever. Suddenly dull browns shift to rich red and black turns to deep violet. An average blue sky now dawns bright turquoise. Experiences and stories, every touch, breath, and idiosyncrasy are transformed into precious pearls of light and celebration. Suddenly, defiantly, life matters. Each introspective moment is made new and we see that what we perceived as inertia never actually stopped moving. We appreciate kindness more and see the significance of little things. When we are forced to say goodbye we are motivated to a renewed sense of profound appreciation and gratitude for the uniqueness of our experiences and the love we share.

If there is any doubt in the truth of death it might be useful to turn it on its head. What if at the time of our death we were given a choice: a brand new life, a new start, but in return you must give back your previous life as though it never existed. All the people, experiences, love, hate, laughter, tears, lessons learned…it all gets wiped away. You never lived. Would you do it? I think most of us would answer no because we recognize life is pretiosis. Regardless, the answer, yes or no, will speak volumes about the life currently being lived and may provide one with either a greater sense of appreciation, or a humble appeal for direction.

The most intimate moments of any human life are birth and death.

The very nature of each is utterly remarkable. As soon as a human being enters this world their personality and character (good and bad) forge ripples in a greater, never-ending pond. Death ensures those ripples are transformed to carry on a deeply meaningful, and lasting impact. We matter, and tears stand in testimony. Uniquely, in ways only we can, we usher in change that impacts and shapes the world. One-of-a-kind in every case, we live our choices, experience joy and sadness and everything in between, get-and-give, and venture outside of the known world. We are remarkable, and our life and death give profound meaning to nature’s simple but beautiful, monotonous churning.

Let’s appreciate the gifts of life and death as part of the same journey and cherish the blessed gift of memory. Live fearlessly knowing every life lived matters because it is, it was, and will be immortalized in the collective lasting legacy of human feeling, sentiment, and experience.

We will rock on, Dear Reader.